Vodacom Super Rugby
Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Big chance for Bulls
Johannesburg - There is an opportunity this weekend for the Vodacom Bulls to do themselves and their country a huge favour by knocking back the confidence that the Crusaders have been spraying through New Zealand rugby with their recent Super Rugby form.
What counts in the Bulls’ favour in their match in Timaru on Saturday is not so much that they themselves are playing particularly well. While the Bulls were better against the Hurricanes last week than they have been, there can also be no denying that the Hurricanes are woeful at the moment.
Instead, what counts for the Bulls this time is the number of injuries that the Crusaders have been carrying courtesy of the bruising they received at the hands of the Sharks in London two weeks ago. Among the players out are Sam Whitelock, a pivotal figure in the tight five, as well as the wizardry provided by Dan Carter at flyhalf.
Couple that with the unknown factor that is the Crusaders hosting a game in the small town of Timaru rather than the stadium in Christchurch that has caused so much grief for South Africans over the years and suddenly there is reason to feel that the Bulls might just be able to end the 10-year drought experienced by local teams in away matches against the Crusaders.
It is still a tall order though, for the Crusaders do still have Sonny Bill Williams lining up at inside centre, and he is worth three or four players the way he is playing at the moment. That is all the more reason to feel that if the Bulls do stop him they have sounded a blow for South Africa by proving that he is mortal without Carter alongside him.
While the Bulls will be playing to make a statement that will tell us that they are well and truly still in the Super Rugby race and should not be underestimated, the Sharks are just playing at the moment to keep their Super Rugby aspirations alive. The past few weeks have certainly shown that a lot can change very quickly in rugby, with three successive defeats leaving the previously high flying Durbanites with a must-win situation against the Lions.
The smart money should be on them, but let’s not forget that the Lions have won their last two games against the Sharks. The Reds also won their last game against the DHL Stormers, though that was in Brisbane, and the Australian team should find the Cape team a different proposition on their home field.
There is an interesting start to the weekend, with the Cheetahs looking to add to the win over the Waratahs and their encouraging showing against the Blues in their last tour match in Dunedin.